Vanessa waved at me as the doors shut, and I watched the train whisk away a friendship of six years. Vanessa and I had met in junior high school, and our common interest in writing stories and shared taste in novels had started an unbreakable friendship that had lasted through all the highs and lows of our teenage years. Now she’d won a scholarship and was going abroad to pursue her degree, leaving me to try to figure out how to go on despite feeling like her departure had pulled the bottom out from under my life. Of course, I’d always known that one day we’d both leave home and go our separate ways, but now that it was actually happening, I was crestfallen.
During the first few weeks after her departure, Vanessa’s absence awakened me to how much I had depended on her. Instead of spending time with many different friends, I’d stayed in the safe zone with Vanessa and a few of our common friends. It was easier to adopt the views of someone so likable and intelligent as Vanessa than to come up with my own views on everything. For example, I always followed Vanessa’s opinions about which books to read or what movies to watch.
While being staunchly loyal wasn’t a bad thing, I realized that I’d been reluctant to take the personal risk of making up my own mind and charting my own path. Though I admired Vanessa’s courage to leave her familiar surroundings and pursue her dream, I was also terrified at the thought of going through the emotional turbulence that comes with reaching adulthood without the assurance of my best friend’s validation and emotional support.
Vanessa and I kept in contact for the first year or so, but naturally grew apart as time went by. Back then, having my hopes to preserve our friendship crumble away was heartbreaking. Yet looking back, it’s clear Vanessa’s moving out of my life gave an impetus to my personal growth.
I was forced to meet new friends, to make mistakes, and then pull myself up to stand again on my own two feet. Not being able to ask for her advice about everything made me search my heart more and contemplate issues for myself. Though at the time I felt lonely and abandoned, I understand now what Faraaz Kazi wrote about friendship: “Some people are going to leave, but that’s not the end of your story. That’s the end of their part in your story.”